While many of you have already met Yasmin, we are so excited to formally introduce her! Yasmin began working at Children’s Link in February as a family support staff and has been such a wonderful member of our team. As a mom of a child with a disability and a parent who is new to Canada, Yasmin can relate to many of the unique challenges and experiences of parents who have children with disabilities.
Yasmin has been lovely enough to do an interview with us to share more about herself and her advice to parents, especially parents who are new to Canada who are navigating disability programs and resources.
Tell us more about yourself!
I am mother to two children– I have a daughter who is 6 years old, and a son who will be 9 years old in August!
Prior to moving to Canada, I was an Architect back in Egypt. When we moved to Calgary, a practicum position at the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth helped me to get a paid position there as a tutor. During this time, I attended many Children’s Link programs and coffee socials and found it to be a great support! I am now working with Children’s Link as a family support staff.
We arrived in Canada from Egypt in 2018. We came here because we wanted a better education for our children and a better quality of life. At the time, my daughter was only 4 and my son was 6.
It was hard at first. We didn’t know anyone here. Getting well settled in and searching for a community to live in was the first thing we did when we arrived. After a month, we started focusing on registering the kids for school. We registered my daughter in kindergarten and my son in grade 1.
We noticed my son was struggling with peers at school, so we had an assessment done through the Alberta Children’s Hospital. My son was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD. It wasn’t easy for us.
We got a pamphlet about Children’s Link from the Child Development Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and I attended one of the workshops here called ‘Different Dreams Retreat’. I met many Moms through this program. My guilt began to turn into acceptance which began to turn into finding solutions (and feeling empowered!).
I began attending different programs for parents at Autism Calgary and the Alberta Children’s Hospital. I also registered my son for different programs. He absolutely loves swimming so we signed him up for programs like WeSwim Calgary and Special Olympics!
What challenges did you find? What was helpful?
It’s really hard not having natural supports such as family and friends. There was a lot of guilt when my son was first diagnosed as well.
I would say meeting other families and parents was so helpful with all of this, even with learning the language. It was also helpful to learn more about different resources in Calgary.
What advice do you have for families who are new to Canada and have a child with a disability?
- The biggest piece of advice I have for families is to involve and engage themselves- meet other families and involve yourself in support groups. This also helps to reduce social isolation, make connections, and helps a lot with learning the language.
- Discover your child’s passions and interests. Kids will always surprise you- you never know what new interest you might find they have.
- Siblings can do more than you sometimes in engaging your child. Siblings can be a great role model, so have conversations with your other children about their sibling’s disability and inclusion to help them to understand.
- Believe in your kids! Explore your child’s strengths and what they enjoy.
- It’s not the end of the world if your child might not follow the dreams you had imagined for them. It might just be a different dream– and that’s okay!
Do you have any resources you would recommend to parents?
I recommend finding resources which can help you to connect with other parents and families. I am a part of several Facebook groups for Mom’s who have children with disabilities, which are very helpful as you can ask any questions you have to other parents who might have gone through something similar. I also recommend the book “Not What I Expected”– this book was helpful when my son was first diagnosed.
Not What I Expected by Rita Eichenstein
Calgary & Area Moms Autism Support Network (only for parents who have children with special needs)
Mothers in Calgary of Children with ADHD and Their Supporters